Why is it hardship and pain drive some people to God and others from Him? How can the same or similar experiences that create a lifetime of deep-seated bitterness in one person build unshakable strength in another? More importantly, what can you and I do to fortify our souls for the inevitable trials and challenges ahead?
Mental health professionals call this resilience, and it refers to one’s ability to bounce back from challenges.
Here are 7 ways we can increase our resilience to withstand life’s greatest challenges:
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1. Cultivate a positive attitude.
According to numerous behavioral experts, attitudes are caught more than taught. This means if our parents or guardians often displayed a pessimistic attitude, we probably will also. The problem is, the more we focus on negative situations, the more negativity we notice. We, in essence, teach ourselves to feel discouraged and defeated. We’re also more apt to focus on things we can’t control, which leaves us feeling helpless rather than victors empowered by Christ.
We can, however, reverse this tendency. Although this might feel unnatural or even forced at the time, we can teach our brains to notice and reflect on all the blessings God has given us. The apostle Paul, a man who experienced abiding joy despite intense persecution, provided insight as to how we can elevate our perspective and our moods. In Philippians 4:8, he wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I like to use this verse as a prayer prompt, inserting Christ’s name: Jesus, You are true and noble. You are right and always do what’s right. You are pure and completely free of evil. In fact, You push back the evil in our world with Your light. You are lovely and admirable, Lord, and the most excellent and praiseworthy thing in my life.
This reminds me that, regardless of my situation, in Christ, I always have ample cause to praise Him.
2. Hold tight to hope.
Biblical hope goes so much deeper than wishful thinking; it’s the assurance that we will receive all that God promised. Therefore, our hope isn’t grounded in our circumstances but rather the character and faithfulness of Christ.
Romans 8:28-30 tells us good is coming. The passage states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified."
This and other passages in Scripture help us keep the problems of today in perspective by reminding us that our loving and all-powerful Father orchestrates our tomorrow. We can also trust that our pain won’t last forever. One day you and I, God’s beloved children, will stand in His presence, whole and sorrow-free. Our hope for joy tomorrow can help us patiently endure the challenges we face today.
3. Remind yourself of truth.
We often feel alone when going through difficult circumstances. We might think no one understands or is concerned with our pain. But Scripture assures us this isn’t the case.
God sees us. In Psalm 33, we read, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love” (v.18, ESV).
He remains with us and will never leave us. He says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2, ESV).
He loves us. The apostle Paul wrote, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a, NIV).
And when we’re frightened, hurting, or fighting temptation to sin, our Savior feels compassion toward us. Psalm 103:13 states, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him” (NIV).
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4. Seek personal growth.
The Bible tells us that God prioritizes our maturity above our temporary pleasure or comfort. As stated previously, He often uses our most challenging circumstances to grow and transform us. I once heard someone say, in relation to a colleague’s behavior, “Squeeze a sponge and what’s inside comes out.”
In other words, difficulties and stress tend to reveal the impurities in our hearts that might otherwise remain hidden so that He can lead us toward greater emotional and spiritual freedom.
5. Practice perseverance.
Years ago, I competed in sprint triathlons. Once or twice a week, I participated in “brick” workouts, which involved swimming, biking, and running during one training session. While this increased my physical endurance, these sessions most benefited me mentally. Studies confirm what my former cross country coach used to say: “A race is won or lost in the mind.” When we begin to tire during competition, we can reflect on all the miles logged previously and the times when we’ve battled similar fatigue but pushed through.
The same is true in life as well. Life’s challenges can leave us feeling weary, weak, and discouraged. But God promises to use those difficult seasons to grow us into hope-filled men and women who reveal the strength of the Savior upon whom we stand.
James 1:2-4 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (NIV). This doesn’t mean we take joy in the suffering itself. Rather, even while grieving our afflictions, we celebrate and rest in the grace of God who promises to use it all for our good.
Notice also, James tells us to “Let perseverance finish its work …” This means, don’t immediately look for an escape route to alleviate your pain. Instead, seek God’s heart and wisdom. When we seek personal comfort above surrendered obedience, we’re more prone to compromise and sin. But when we determine to yield to our Savior, however He leads and come what may, He matures and “completes” us. As a result, we exit our difficult seasons with increased faith and inner grit.
6. Remain “other’s” focused.
Humanity as a whole tends to be incredibly self-obsessed. When we enter a room full of strangers, we often think of how people will perceive us or who might welcome us to their table. Many times, this results in increased anxiety and insecurity. Similarly, in times of adversity, our struggle might dominate our thoughts, which does nothing to alleviate our pain. Our self-obsession will likely only make us feel worse. Shifting our focus off ourselves and onto others, however, reminds us that we’re not alone. Most everyone we encounter is hurting to some degree and in need of encouragement and support.
But cultivating a caring, altruistic attitude provides additional benefits, as well. According to a study conducted in 2019, helping others increases our emotional fortitude and sense of well-being while increasing societal bonds that in turn benefit us all.
7. Build a healthy support system.
According to psychologists, healthy social connections help alleviate our stress, which in turn benefits our emotional, mental, and physical health. Plus, in many communities, members rely on and help one another.
This benefits us in numerous ways. First, obviously, we all navigate life better when we have individuals we can turn to and rely upon in times of need. We receive comfort from knowing that we’re seen, heard, and cared for. Second, God often loves us through others. As the saying goes, humans act as Christ’s hand and feet, a role God expects all His children to carry out. But we also experience His love personally when we allow it to flow from Him through us to someone else. And finally, interconnected living gives us a sense of purpose during our most challenging or monotonous seasons.
Scripture promises that we have everything we need in Christ to live with confidence and steadfast faith. Through Him, we’ve received grace upon grace, which includes all of the spiritual blessings accessed through the Holy Spirit. But the Bible also tells us to grow into our faith as active participants in this maturing process.
We’re to combat negative thinking with truth (2 Cor. 10:5), focus on the joy we know lies ahead (Heb. 12:1-3), pursue maturity (Eph 4:14-15), “let perseverance finish its work” (James 1:4), serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13), and to remain as unified and connected to one another as our Savior is to His Father (John 17:21). When we obey His commands, we increase our intimacy with God and fortify souls. In short, we become the victorious and empowered men and women He created us to be.
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Originally published Friday, 04 February 2022.